Council – Jan 29, 2018 (a)

January 29th was a busy day at Council, and I have a lot to say about it, so I am going to stretch this out to three blog posts (a new record!) that are going to trickle out as I find time to write them up. We had a mid-day Workshop on pending Cannabis Regulations, and many items on our Regular Agenda, but I’m going to start by going through our three Public Hearing topics.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7953, 2018: Passive Design Incentives for Single Detached Zones
There is a lot going on in BC on building more energy efficient buildings. The Province has been going through a process of developing a new building code that provides for more efficient buildings as a baseline, and ramping up that baseline over time. They call this the “Step Code”, as in several graduated steps towards higher efficiency. The top step (Step 5) will be buildings approximating the efficiency of a high-level European standard known as Passive House.

These buildings use advanced building techniques to reduce thermal bridging between inner and outer walls, and much higher insulation standards. They also use advanced tech to assure that the air inside the house does not become stale or that moisture doesn’t become an issue by using heat exchangers and air handling units to closely manage indoor air quality. When well executed, a Passive House in our climate wouldn’t need a furnace 99% of the time – the waste heat from bodies, the back of your fridge, and your water heater will be enough to maintain a comfortable temperature. As a bonus, the house will be much more comfortable than an old-tech house because the air will be fresher and you won’t have drafts or big temperature shifts.

Of course, these houses are more expensive to build, and have other design compromises. There is a Passive House on Third Ave that an untrained eye would not be able to tell from the heritage home next door, but the builder definitely experienced some “bleeding edge” hassles and expense getting it built. As it is one of the City’s goals to have more efficient building stock (to reduce GHG and energy use), our staff have looked at what types of incentives we can provide builders and homeowners to make it easier to move up the Step Code steps.

There are limits to what a City can do as far as incentives when it comes to building new homes, for all sorts of Local Government Act reasons. However, we can provide variances to certain zoning requirements. Staff here suggests a Flat Area FSR Exclusion tied to Step code – the higher your “step”, the more FSR you are permitted, up to a 10% increase if you achieve Step 5 (which is Passive House / Net Zero Ready, for you code freaks out there). This makes up for the loss of living space per square foot of building due to the much thicker walls that Step 5 Houses will have.

Staff did a pretty exhaustive analysis to determine the impacts on setbacks, even working with new Laneway/Carriage house guidelines, and don’t think that change to minimum setbacks are required. However, we would permit 2ft higher buildings in some zones to accommodate thicker insulation requirements in the basement and roof.

We received one piece of correspondence that questioned the value of Passive House as opposed to other energy efficiency metrics, but I note our Bylaw does not actually do this. It is more about meeting the advanced building code, which may meet or exceed many efficiency standards that are currently flooding the market. We also had a presenter at the Public Hearing bring some interesting points about how we could encourage more efficient buildings by encouraging smaller buildings, and less articulated designs of Laneway/Carriage houses. These are great ideas, and our staff will be following up. Again, we need to figure out how to “incentivize” smaller houses within our legal limits when it would represent (essentially) taking away zoning entitlement, but I think there is something to his arguments, and I look forward to next steps.

In the end, I think this is a good idea and appreciate the work staff did to develop an evaluate the incentive programs. Council voted to approve giving the Bylaw Third Reading.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7915, 2018 for 229 Eleventh Street
This project will see three living units built on a current single-family lot in the Brow of the Hill – a duplex and a laneway house. The lot is currently vacant, and has been for several years, at least in part because it is a very challenging lot to build on. It is narrow and very steep, with the only road access on the uphill side (which is one of New West’s numerous named laneways).

The project as proposed was generally supported by the Residents’ Association and neighbours. The Advisory Planning Commission approved the design. We had no written submissions, and no-one came to speak to the Public Hearing. Council voted to approve Third Reading of the Bylaw Amendment.

Zoning Amendment Bylaw for 612, 616 and 618 Carnarvon Street; 50 and 36 Sixth Street; and 615 and 637 Clarkson Street (Zoning Amendment Bylaw [618 Carnarvon Street] No. 7949, 2017)
This was the highest-profile Public Hearing of the night, a big project that has been in the works for several years. The project will see a 33-story residential tower with a 3-story mixed-use podium on the corner of Sixth Street and Carnarvon in the “Tower District” of Downtown. The project will include enclosing part of the Skytrain guideway between Sixth Street and MacKenzie Street.

The building supports the Downtown Community Plan for the Tower District, putting higher density development near our Skytrain stations and downtown amenities, while providing street-level retail and public realm improvements. It will have twice the number of “family friendly” units required by our Family Friendly Housing Policy, including several street-level townhouses, and a majority of two- and three-bedroom units. It was approved by the Advisory Planning Commission and Design Panel (after several design and layout changes to accommodate concerns raised by those committees earlier in the process).

The changes being proposed here in the Zoning Amendment are related to overall density and height. The density requested is 6.11 FSR, which is 0.91 above the zoning allowance of 5.20 (with Density Bonus). This is actually lower density than the two immediately adjacent recently-developed properties. The height does, once again, allow the building of a more slender building with less shadowing and view impacts, larger offsets from surrounding buildings, and a better ground form. The design of the tower has shifted somewhat as a result of public consultation and committee input. The tower was made narrower, with a “chamfered” top, and was pushed west and south somewhat to reduce intrusion to existing adjacent buildings.

Council received some written correspondence for this project, both in favour and against. We also had five presenters at the Public Hearing, three against (all concerned about views and sunlight) and two in favour (including the proponent). Neighbours in adjacent high-rise circulated a petition opposing the project for height, view and traffic concerns. I also took note that one of the letters of support was provided by one of the businesses that will be displaced by this project. Overall, I think that the developer has done a good job working with the community through the consultation process, and have put a serious effort into addressing concerns.

The question is always “what does the community get out of developments like this?” and perhaps that needs to be an entire new blog post, as most of the answer is not limited to this single project, but also to most development projects in the City. But here is a one-paragraph answer.

The City gets living spaces, which is part of (not nearly all) of the solution to rising housing prices. This project has a variety of housing types, with City townhouses and apartments that will no doubt range (based on size, side, and story) from somewhat affordable to kind of expensive. We also get density near our retail zones to improve the viability of our businesses. Placing density near SkyTrain stations reduces the traffic impacts of that density, and even reduces the need for people to drive through our City because we are providing more housing options here. This particular project will envelop part of the Skytrain line, which will reduce noise in part of downtown, and will provide a small pocket park on Sixth Street improving the public realm in that area, along with an improved retail strip. Through Density Bonus and Voluntary Amenity Contributions, the City will receive something close to $3Million. Through Council Policy, Density Bonus money all goes into reserves, with 30% going towards our Affordable Housing fund, 10% towards providing capital grants for childcare, 10% to fund our Public Art program, and the remaining 50% towards general amenity fund that goes into improving civic facilities and parks via our 5-year Capital Plan (this is aside from the DCC contributions the builder must make to pay for sewer, water, parks and roads infrastructure in the City).

Council moved to approve Third Reading for the Zoning Amendment.

We then moved on to Opportunities to be Heard, which will be covered in Part 2, coming soon!

Whither a plan?

It appears the Mayor’s Council are once again on the hot seat.

For the best part of a decade, the Council has demonstrated apparent amity, likely due to recognition that they were going to need to work together to get a disinterested Provincial Government to support any kind of transit funding stability as the region’s growth exploded. Alas, they recently seem ready to take a step back into parochial foot-shooting. With a federal government hot to spend money on urban infrastructure renewal and low-carbon transportation and a provincial government equally willing to prioritize sustainable transportation investments, the 10 year plan developed by a consensus of Mayors is suddenly being questioned by the very Mayors that put the plan together.

The first shot in this apparent internal battle was the vote to make Mayor Corrigan of Burnaby (the one Mayor who questioned the 10-year vision all along, leading random bloggers to suggest he was “transit regressive”) the new Chair of the Mayors Council, giving him more power to set the agenda and negotiate with the province over the terms of transit investment. He did this (presumably, because the voting was secret ballot), only through a one-mayor one-vote system that provides the Mayors of Anmore and Lions Bay equal voices to those of Vancouver and Surrey. However, most votes at the Mayor’s Council have a weighted vote system in an effort to closer approximate the population differences across the region and the relative sources of the budgets that TransLink spends.

The Agenda for Thursday’s Mayors Council meeting is out, and it suggests this tenuous situation will be tested right away. The only substantive agenda item is a motion put forward by Mayor Greg Moore of Port Coquitlam:

…that the Mayors Council supports the implementation of the Phase Two Plan in early-2018 as planned, including construction of the Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT, Millennium Line Broadway Extension, the SkyTrain Upgrade Strategy and the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge, along with increases to bus and HandyDART service and funding for walking, cycling and Major Road Network infrastructure across the region;

There is more there (you can read the Agenda and resolution, with all its whereases and nuanced language, here), but the message is clear. At least one member of the Mayors Council (the one who happens to be the Chair of Metro Vancouver) wants the plan forward to be made clear to Translink planning staff, the Provincial and Federal Governments, and to all of the regional partners involved in planning our transportation system. It is clear that at least some of the mayors on the Council still believe in the vision, see its urgency, and are willing to speak up to the pall of suspicion that has resulted from Mayor Corrigan’s election (not the least by semi-informed bloggers, like me)

This is the vote to watch to see who is on-side with well-developed and integrated sustainable transportation investments, and who is willing to delay solutions to our regional transportation challenges for yet another decade.

Us & Them

This is a terrible story.

Over a period of four days, two pedestrians and a cyclist were struck by drivers of vehicles on the same section of Cariboo Road. The first pedestrian, a 15 year old, died at the scene. It’s heartbreaking.

This is a piece of road I am familiar with. It used to be on my daily commute when I worked in Burnaby, and is still part of my regular cycling routine. So am quick to add my “anecdata” along with the list of people commenting that the crosswalk in question is a terrible design. It is a crosswalk that provides access to a well-used bus stop across the street from a residential area, but it is around a corner at the base of a big hill where the speed limit is ostensibly 50km/h, but every piece of the road’s design (separated centre, wide shoulder, 5m lane widths, sidewalk buffer) tells the driver to go much faster. And drivers do go much faster.

So there will be wringing of hands, and pressure for the City to fix this situation. Likely, some sort of pedestrian-activated light will be installed at the cost of a couple of hundred thousand dollars that will marginally increase pedestrian safety, but will add one more step a pedestrian must take (hit a button, wait for a light cycle) to beg for the right to safety while moving through public space. Meanwhile, a little bit of targeted enforcement by the police will increase the perception of something being done until their attention is drawn elsewhere and driver’s behaviors revert to what the road design is telling them to do. The 85th percentile will again sneak up to its design point.

I would be hopeful for, but not expecting, a more sustainable long-term solution, one that would meaningfully increase safety for all users. Reduce the lane width to something like 3.5m (which would provide opportunity for a separated protected cycling path on this well-used route). Complement the pedestrian light with a raised crosswalk, paint and texture treatment to send appropriate speed signals to the drivers. Increase the number of protected crosswalks along Cariboo Hill so people can access the Cariboo Heights residential Co-op and Briar Road, and to again signal drivers that this is a residential area where they should be driving 50km/h and expect pedestrians, not an 80km/h freeway on-ramp. This would, of course, be expensive, but the Google Earth air photo still shows the millions of dollars recently spent here to allow drivers on Cariboo Road to drive faster through here as part of a regional motordom expansion project…

Uncharacteristically, I am not going to hate on Burnaby here. That would be too easy and unfair. This situation is not unique to Cariboo Road, and it is not unique to Burnaby. It in no way undermines the seriousness of this situation to say these three incidents in such close proximity are an unfortunate coincidence. Realistically, I can name a dozen other areas where similarly hazardous conditions exist, and municipalities like Burnaby, Richmond, and (yes) New Westminster are slow to react to them.

That these safety issues are so common is part of the reason we are so slow to react; there’s a lot of infrastructure to fix and a limited infrastructure improvement budget. Still, too much of it is spent on “getting traffic moving” in places like this, were public safety would suggest the opposite. I could go off on a long tangent about “warrant analysis” here, but instead I’ll just reiterate that even if the best intentions exist, priorities need to be set. There simply isn’t enough money to make every pedestrian crossing as safe as we would like, because there are too many unsafe intersections and crossings. 70-odd pedestrians are killed every year in BC, the vast majority at a marked crossing or intersection, demonstrating that we have a lot of work to do when it comes it engineering the protection of pedestrians.

However, engineering can only get us closer to the safety we desire (and please spare me the long digression into autonomous vehicles, the fantastical promises of which seem to commonly fail when pressed against some simple inquiries into their remaining challenges). I’ve recently-enough ranted about how the vehicles pedestrians are forced to share space with are increasingly dangerous to those pedestrians, but haven’t really called out another trend supported mostly by personal anecdote: an increasingly callous disregard for the safety of other demonstrated by people driving cars in British Columbia, and the apparent reluctance of Police and Crown Counsel to meaningfully address this public health emergency.

We have work to do as municipalities (working with and supported by TransLink and the Ministry of Transportation, I hope), and I am proud that New Westminster’s draft 2018 capital budget is showing a serious commitment to meeting the goals set out in our Master Transportation Plan – we are now spending as much on pedestrian and cycling improvements as we do on road repair and asphalt to “keep traffic flowing”. But at some point, we are going to need to convince drivers to meet us half way. We need to change people’s minds about their cars, their entitlement, and how that threatens the safety of our communities.

Pipeline Project

There is a lot to grab your attention right now when it comes to local government. Budget deliberations, mobility pricing, the ongoing housing crisis, election 2018; it is hard to pick your battles sometimes.

However, the pending start of construction activity along the proposed Kinder Morgan TransMountain Pipeline Expansion is likely to spend some time in the news this spring and summer. Although directly-impacted local governments such as Coquitlam and Burnaby have taken very different approaches to the project, there have been people in New Westminster raising alarm about the potential impacts on the Brunette River watershed, along our eastern border.

What has not been discussed as much in our local government context, is what this project means to the First Nations along the route and to the indigenous people upon whose traditional lands this project will impose itself. As our own City approaches reconciliation, we need to start thinking more broadly about how we engage the indigenous community when we are evaluating our support or opposition to resource projects – even ones we have little jurisdiction over.

Next week, the Massey Theatre Society is partnering with Savage Society and Itsazoo Productions to present “The Pipeline Project”, a multi-media theatre event and conversation that explores these themes. As part of the Massey’s ongoing “Skookum Indigenous Arts Program

By all reviews, it is a serious, but at times humourous and disarming discussion of pipeline politics, and the sometimes unrecognized push-pull between “environmentalism” and the ongoing fight for indigenous rights. There are even a couple of matinee performances/discussions for those who can’t get out at night.

Here is a (slightly NSFW, but funny when it is) preview:

I think it is pretty timely with where New West, the province, and the nation are on this discussion. It’s gut check time when it comes to defining what kind of place we want Canada to be. This is a good chance to start listening. Get tickets here.


I have already written a slightly-too-long blog post on the City’s burgeoning reconciliation process. If I could summarize the thesis, it is that the community needs to take intentional and careful steps in creating a space for communication. We need to hear each other’s stories.

I was both excited and apprehensive to see the Record name reconciliation as their News Item of the Year. It is great that our sole remaining local paper sees this as an important topic, as their participation in nurturing those conversations will be important. The problem being that their story once again focused attention on a statue – a potentially important issue point, but a relatively minor part of a much larger discussion that has to happen.

The story in the Record has, for good or bad, already started discussion in the letters section of the paper, and associated Social Media.

I disagree with some of what I read in those letters. However, I more strongly disagree with people jumping on Social Media to (with the best of intentions) correct things in that letter they deem as inaccurate or (with less clear intentions) accuse the letter writers of ignorance or ill intent.

One thing I have learned in my first forays into learning about the Truth and Reconciliation process is that we need people to tell their stories, to share their thoughts and experiences. This cannot happen if our default is to immediately question a person’s ideas or impressions. Conversation is different than debate, and on this topic we need much more of the former, much less of the latter. Even when what we hear is uncomfortable. We need to find a way to talk about how our understanding, our experience, may be different or come from a different place without engaging in debate or placing the letter writer in an “others” group.

I wrote last time about trying to understand how we can create spaces where people who lived the Indigenous experience can talk about their truths. I think this is an important early emphasis, if only because we have to get over the hurdles related to 150+ years of systematic efforts to silence those voices. However, we don’t get there by shouting down the voices of the members of our community for whom the entire idea of there being an “Indigenous Experience” is a challenge to their deeply held beliefs.

We all, all of us, have to learn how to listen. It’s only the first step, but it’s an important one. We can use this process to build a stronger, more just and compassionate community. And that is a way better goal than just having a well-debated statue.

Council – Jan 8, 2018

The first meeting of 2018 had that back-to-school feel, with presentations, some interesting public delegations, and some actual work done. We started with a presentation from staff on Innovation Week, which I will probably have to write a whole separate blog post about, because there is a lot of cool stuff happening at the end of February, and you probably want to take part.

2018-2022 Draft Financial Plan – General Fund
This is the first public reporting of the work that has been done up to now on the 2018 budget and Financial Plan through to 2022.

Our General Fund (the money we use for the day-to-day running of the City) is currently budgeting revenue to increase by 3%, mostly from tax increases, with expenses increasing by 2%. We can achieve this with a 2.95% tax increase, and still include the transfer of $4.7 Million into capital reserves to support our long-term Capital Plan.

The Capital Plan for 2018 includes $64 Million spent on buildings and other capital improvements – $50 Million from the reserves we have in the bank, $7 Million from borrowing, and $7 Million from other sources (Grants, DCCs, etc.). This is completely manageable in 2018, but we need to look forward to our entire 5-year Capital Plan, which is (at first blush) pushing the envelope a bit.

We have a great number of capital projects, including some new facilities and ongoing capital maintenance. Over a 5-year plan, it totals more than $240 Million, which will challenge our reserves and our debt tolerance. A big part of this is the proposed replacement of the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre, but also includes implementation of our MTP, necessary maintenance and upgrades on the Library, City Hall, and other buildings, and meeting community expectations for everything from accessibility to pavement management (there is a great table in the report that outlines all of the items in the draft 2018 Capital budget attached to this report).

The need to invest in closing our infrastructure gap is not unique to New Westminster, and we are in pretty good shape compared to many similarly-sized Cities across Canada, but the gap is real and needs a proactive approach. We have already done some pretty serious prioritization of capital projects, and our staff have done the financial analysis to determine the right balance between drawing down reserves and increasing debt – both options have long-term financial consequences.

Staff are proposing a Capital Levy to be added to our property taxes to help us get over this capital investment bump. A 1% levy for 5 years would help our reserves be maintained at a level that provides financial security long-term. Essentially, that would mean our tax increase in 2018 would be 3.95% (assuming the general budget is approved as it is), but that the extra 1% would be earmarked for tangible capital improvements like the Canada Games Pool.

This is an interesting discussion, and I look forward to hearing from the public about how we should best address the needs identified in our Capital Plan.

The following items were moved on Consent:

Infrastructure Canada Smart Cities Challenge
This Federal Grant program is a pretty exciting opportunity – though it will be a highly competitive grant process. The City has a pretty ambitious Intelligent City program, and has already been recognized as a Smart21 City. Events like the Innovation Forum, our Hackathon and our Open Data, BridgeNet, and other initiatives put us in a good position to put together a bid, either alone or working with regional partners. We need some community help here, though, so look forward to some upcoming community engagement asking you to help us frame a “Challenge Statement”.

Changes to the 2018 Schedule of Regular Council Meetings
Oops, they moved Spring Break on us! Please update your 2018 social calendars so you won’t be disappointed!

Queen City (Bonnie’s) Taxi Ltd: Commercial Vehicle Amendment Bylaw No. 7976, 2018 to Add Vehicles – Bylaw for Three Readings
Once again, taxi operators in the City are asking for an increase in their fleets to meet frequency and timeliness standards their customers expect. This somewhat convoluted process includes the City approving a Bylaw to increase the number of licenses. This is the draft version of the Bylaw, which will go to an Opportunity to be Heard, so I’ll hold off my comments until after that.

Heritage Properties Maintenance Standards Bylaw No. 7971, 2018 and Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw Amendment No. 7973, 2018: Bylaws for Three Readings
The Heritage Conservation Area (HCA) protections for Queens Park are designed to prevent the active destruction of important historical assets in the community. However, these assets can be damaged in a more passive way – through intentional or unintentional neglect or maintenance failures that erode the structural stability or heritage elements of the building. For this reason, HCAs usually include a Bylaw that regulates minimum standards of maintenance for otherwise protected buildings.

This draft Bylaw replaces an existing older Bylaw that protected heritage assets in the City, in order to align with the new HCA. Essentially, it requires owners take reasonable steps to prevent water ingress and rot, infestation, and damage caused by penetration of vegetation into the building. It doesn’t regulate things like fading paint or cosmetic appearances.

Passive Design Incentives for Single Detached Zones – First and Second Readings for Zoning Bylaw No. 7953, 2018
The City has looked at providing some development incentives to homeowners interested in building much more efficient houses. This would help us meet our long-term community energy and emissions reduction targets. Passive House (or, in the native German “Passivhaus”) is an ultra-low-energy standard where a typical residential home can be heated by little more than the waste heat from their fridge coils and domestic water (with a bit of a boost from low-power heaters in extreme conditions).

We have at least one Passive Houses-standard house in the City that I know of (you wouldn’t know looking at it from the street), and as the Province’s Step Code changes advance over the decades ahead, the “leap” to Passive House will be getting smaller and smaller – making it more and more attractive to builders.

However, the thicker walls required for Passive House currently mean a slightly smaller house for a given footprint/allowable zoning, and staff are recommending we change the way we calculate square footage (and concomitantly FSR) for buildings built to Passive House standard to level that playing field a bit. This Bylaw will go to Public Hearing, so aside from describing the intent, I will hold off on comments until after that.

2018 City Partnership Grants – Update
This is a follow-up on a few questions Council had coming out of the Partnership Grant applications and approvals we did back in December.

These items were Removed from Consent for discussion:

2018 Festival Grant Recommendations
This is the last of our Grant approvals for the 2018 season, with the rest being done back in December. Festivals Grants help fund everything from the Hyack Parade to the various cultural festivals and road “closures” across the City. No doubt the Festivals file has been a great news story in New West over the last couple of years, with so many great events happening. This is – I cannot emphasize enough – mostly due to the efforts of armies of volunteers from the many organizations that work to bring people together in New West. They do most of the heavy lifting for these events, but the City’s financial and logistical support can be fundamental to their success.

Our budget was $235,000, and we received 25 applications totaling just a hair under $400,000. So the Festivals Committee was charged with prioritizing funding based on established criteria. In the end, Council approved the recommended $248,100 in funding to 23 organizations – which is $13,000 over budget.

Housing and Social Planning Update and Work Program for 2018/19
This City is regional leader in the Housing and Social Planning departments, because of consistent support from Councils past and present over the last decade, and because of some remarkably strong work done by our social planning staff.

This file has grown (…expanded, …exploded) as the regional housing crisis worsened along with other social issues in the province related to poverty, mental health, and failing senior government social supports . There is so much going on: the development of supportive housing on City lands, expansion of childcare, actions under the Family-friendly housing policy, child and youth friendly city strategy, dementia-friendly City action plan, the Rent Bank, our Tenant Relocation Program… the list goes on.

We have senior governments now that are talking about re-investing in supporting the disenfranchised and marginalized citizens of the province, and there is some light on the horizon, but the City still needs to maintain consistent action, and that means we need to invest in the staff required to do that work. Council moved to support that work, and further made it clear to staff that we don’t want to slow down, but need to know that there are sufficient resources to address emergent issues. This work program is ambitious, but the City is ambitious.

Rental Replacement Policy and Inclusionary Housing Policy: Proposed Work Plan and Consultation Process
Speaking of good work on the affordable housing file, we are looking at how to encourage the development of more affordable housing options. We have been pretty successful at encouraging secured market rental gets built, but need to worry about the affordability of those units, and long-term stability of the lower-cost rental stock (this is where the Demoviction and Renoviction issues come in). We also need some policy guidance on inclusionary housing – assuring there is a reasonable non-market housing component to the new housing growth in the City. That will require some economic analysis of proposed policy changes, for which we would need to hire some consultants. This can be paid for out of our Affordable Housing fund.

There will be some stakeholder and public consultation on this work, and I am interested to see where it is going.

We then performed our normal Bylaws shuffle

Zoning Amendment Bylaw (Passive Design Exclusions) No. 7953, 2018
As discussed above, this Bylaw would adjust our zoning to support the building of more energy-efficient buildings. Council gave this Bylaw Amendment two readings, and it will go to Public Hearing on January 29th. C’mon out and let us know what you think.

Commercial Vehicle Amendment Bylaw No. 7976, 2018
As discussed above, this Bylaw which would allow an increase in Taxi licenses in New Westminster was given three readings. There will be an Opportunity to be Heard on this Bylaw Amendment on January 29th. C’mon out and tell us what you think!

Heritage Property Maintenance Standards Bylaw No. 7971, 2018
Bylaw Notice Enforcement Housekeeping Amendment Bylaw No. 7973, 2018

As discussed above, these Bylaw amendments that would help protect heritage homes in Queens Park from intentional neglect were given three readings.

232 Lawrence Street – Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7948, 2017
This Zoning Amendment was given a Public Hearing back on November 27th, and is required to permit a childcare facility to operate on City lands in Queensborough. It was Adopted by Council, and is now the Law of the Land.

Five-Year Financial Plan (2017-2021) Amendment Bylaw No. 7938, 2017
This Amendment to our 2017-2021 Financial Plan was discussed and given three readings back on December 4th. It is an administrative update to adjust for changes that occurred during the year, and was Adopted by Council.

And, again, aside from an interesting Public Delegations session, that was the work for the evening. See you all next week, same time, same channel!


This is terrifying.

I mean, that is what it’s supposed to be. Part of the macho-truck-tough-guy/gal image it is meant to project. Sports cars were sometimes jokingly referred to as phallic symbols, projecting compensatory manhood and virility. This is a more of a rolling sawed-off shotgun, projecting violence, instability, and wide destructive swath to compensate for an inability to aim.

Big Trucks are nothing new in Canada, but look at the language the puff piece in the “Drive” section of our national newspaper (ugh) uses to describe it:

“Insane”, “ridiculous”, “’roid rage”, “invincible”, “out of scale”.

This truck is too wide (“A single lane suddenly feels too narrow… a foot wider than an already-huge F-250”), too tall (“the bottom of the seat is at eye-level”), and both creates a visual barrier for others (“Once inside you can see clearly over the tops of all SUVs”), yet has terrible visbility itself (“Nothing directly in front of it is visible, thanks to the huge, wide hood”). This lack of visibility is enhanced by mating a 450 horsepower engine with a design that features “bad steering, bad ride and bad handling.” But don’t worry, “You’re so high off the ground, there’s little sense of speed. It’s like looking out the window of a 747 during takeoff.”

Yes, this vehicle is an exaggeration of a point, and not many are sold (although the Globe & Mail will no doubt help with that little problem). But it is symptomatic of a situation where the use of automobiles is,  for the first time in history, getting less safe. And it is increasingly innocent bystanders being killed by them, not drivers.

There are many factors leading to these trends, distracted driving being a bit part of the equation (which raises an entire new rant about big LCD screens in cars). However, we live in a situation were you can roll a Honda Civic off the lot that is faster on the racetrack than a Lamborghini Gallardo. Dodge is selling, over the counter and with no special training mind you, an 840hp drag racer that does a sub-10 second quarter mile. It is so fast, that it is actually illegal to use at a regulated drag strip without doing safety modifications, but you can drive through your local school zone with no such regulatory concerns.

Cars are getting bigger, they are getting more powerful, and things like outward visibility are being compromised for design reasons. Trucks, especially, are seemingly exempt from any regulations around bumper height and fender coverage. After-market modification of lights, suspension, and other critical safety equipment is essentially unregulated.

This is all coming from the position of someone who walks and cycles in a dense urban community, but also someone who sees it as part of his job to make it be safer for 8-year-olds to walk to school and 80-year-olds to cross the street. We already give so much of our urban space to automobiles, because they serve a utility that people value. Recognizing that, we can build wide, comfortable sidewalks. We can design better crosswalks, and paint green paint at conflict zones. We can impose speed limits, improve lighting, create walkable neighbourhoods and dynamic retail districts. But our public spaces will never feel safe – will never be safe – if some agro asshole can charge through it waving a sawed-off shotgun at everyone.

We need to have a discussion about how far is too far for automobiles that want to share our urban space. We need enforceable standards of power, speed, bumper height, and other design elements that emphasize the safety of not just the operator and the passenger, but of other who unwillingly share space with these machines.

Some will suggest this is an intrusion – the end of freedom as we know it. Of course, we already have an actual law telling people to wear a Styrofoam helmet when sharing road space with this monstrosity. And when you get run over by it, rest assured the driver will say “I didn’t even see him!” like that is a defense, and not an admission of guilt. And Crown Counsel will agree.

There is no “War on Cars”, but if that’s what it takes to get these tanks off of our city streets, sign me up.


At the last meeting of 2017, Council received a presentation on the work done by staff, consultants, and the Mayors Task Force on a replacement facility for the Canada Games Pool. Here is my summary of the report, and where we are at on this project (through my eyes, at least).

There is quite a bit of background in the reports presented, but the short version is that Council evaluated refurbishment and replacement options for the Canada Games Pool back in 2015. At that time, the cost for some of the significant mechanical and structural work on the facility was larger than Council was willing to invest in the aged facility. So work began in planning for a replacement and determining if the Centennial Community Centre should be involved in that replacement program, as it was similarly approaching end-of-life for many of its components.

Council and staff worked together on setting some conditions around which future planning should occur. Work was done on a site analysis to determine if the pool should be moved (in the end, the business case did not support changing locations), and how/if to support existing programs during replacement (Council committed to not demolishing the old pool building until the new is built to maintain continuity in programming).

Around the same time, a large public consultation and stakeholder engagement program (“Your Active New West”), engaged the community in discussions around what types of programs the new facility must have, what programs would be nice to have, and what the community was less committed to. The members of Council also toured a number of relatively recent pool and recreation centres around the Lower Mainland, from Coquitlam to West Vancouver, to hear from other communities what worked well and what didn’t in their facilities. A few of us even toured a facility outside Ottawa during last year’s FCM meeting.

There was also a forward-looking needs analysis completed, looking at facility use now (at CGP and other regional aquatic facilities) by the numbers, and projected 30 years into the future. This included demographics on the types of users, facility capacities, and such to provide solid data to back up the expressed desires of the community, and support a business case for operating an expanded recreation facility. “Build it and they will come” is often true, but we need a defensible business case both to demonstrate due diligence, and to bolster our applications for senior government support.

With all of this in hand, the Task Force worked with a team of consultants to develop a proposed program for a new combined Aquatic Centre and Recreation facility. This proposed program is laid out in the detailed Feasibility Study you can read here.

From all of that, the current proposal is to build a natatorium (word of the day!) of similar scale as the Hillcrest Centre build in Vancouver in 2011: a competition-sized tank (8 full-width lanes, 54m long), with a movable floor on one half to provide flexibility of programming, and a separate large (~450 person) leisure pool primarily for family fun, but to also accommodate some (short) lane swimming. The proposal also includes two high-school sized gymnasiums, a fitness/exercise centre more than twice the current capacity, a childcare centre, and 8 very flexible multi-purpose rooms of varying size to accommodate the types of programs the Centennial Centre does now. Throw in change rooms, office space, and common areas, and you have 114,000 square feet of community centre.

Amongst the many issues that the Task Force have worked on is how to fit that much building on a relatively constrained space. Keeping the existing facilities operating was important, and much of the area where the current parking lot and gravel field are cannot be built upon because of a buried Metro Vancouver sewer line and geotechnical concerns. The Firehall (it is almost new) and the Curling Rink (the City doesn’t own the building) aren’t going anywhere, though the recycling yard may me movable. With traffic access, CPTED, and logistics of construction, the site is very constrained.

As I’m making these points, I need to emphasize that the design and layout suggested in the feasibility study are preliminary and diagrammatic. We don’t yet know what this building will look like in any detail, as we simply are not there yet in the iterative process of design, budget, and construction. However, we know what we want to build, and we know we can make it fit, so now is a good time to take this back out to the public and do a check-in before going forward to the next steps.

There will be public consultation happening early in 2018, but this will be somewhat different than the previous community discussion in 2016-2017. This will be more of a check in to assure we have hit the mark from the earlier consultations, not a time to go back to the drawing board that we already spent a year scribbling on. We also need to start the discussion about how we are going to pay for this.

The budget estimates (and yes, these are early estimates suitable to the early part of the iterative design and planning process we are going through, subject to change for various reasons within and outside of the control of Council) is that the entire centre will cost between $85 and $100 Million. When offering a preliminary estimate, we try to include reasonable contingencies, and are budgeting in 2020 dollars to account for some inflation. However, building costs do not necessarily track the CPI, and anyone trying to hire a contractor right now knows it is  a crazy hot and expensive building market in Greater Vancouver right now. Needless to say, this will be the single largest capital investment ever made by the City of New Westminster.

Council and staff have reason to be confident that the program proposed will qualify for some senior government grants, and potentially some significant Federal Infrastructure dollars. It ticks all the right boxes that the federal program has outlined (inclusive and accessible community infrastructure, improved recreational and social opportunities, significant energy efficiency gains and reduction in GHGs). That said, we cannot move ahead assuming those monies will arrive. We are required to put together a 5-year capital plan that shows we have demonstrated our ability to pay for this, and that will inevitably involve dipping into reserves, some debt financing, and tax increases. There’s no way around that.

So over to you. Public engagement is coming in January, and in the meantime will be doing some more technical work on things like geotechnical constraints, parking needs, and some sustainability targets for the building (is LEED Gold the right standard?). We will also be preparing to submit grant applications to senior governments when the windows open (if you know anyone in Victoria or Ottawa, put in a good word for us!). This is a big project, and an exciting time for the City. Let’s hear what you think. It is important to let Council know what you like and if you support this project, and to let us know if you have concerns.